Holy hell, guys. The Emmy nominations don’t totally suck this year. I mean, they still suck. And they always will.
The fact of the matter is that there is just far too much good TV these days that, even if the lazy fools who still nominate Downton Abbey for Best Drama Series actually wised up and stopped some of its tired rubberstamping and recognized fresher, more adventurous talent, there simply isn’t room to acknowledge all of the fantastic work and shows we cherish.
If we’re in a better mood than usual on Emmy nomination morning, it’s because presumed long shots like Lisa Kudrow, Amy Schumer, and Tatiana Maslany reaped the awards bids they so richly deserved but many thought they would never get. It’s because Parks and Recreation, network TV’s best and most consistently delightful sitcom, was nominated in Best Comedy and The Big Bang Theory, TV’s most overrated and grating one, did not.
It’s because there’s actually a handful of pleasant surprises to counterbalance the traditional Emmy morning outrage.
Oh, but there is still outrage.
For all the talk of the progress broadcast TV has made in showcasing diversity, neither Jane the Virgin, Black-ish, or Empire—the latter the biggest hit broadcast TV has had in a decade—reaped Best Series nods. And, naturally, some of the best shows and most talented performers on television failed to get their due. (Sorry, The Americans.)
I mean, why would anyone expect an awards organization meant to celebrate the best television has to offer to actually nominate, you know, the best television has to offer?
So while Game of Thrones and American Horror Story: Freak Show celebrate their leading 24 and 19 nominations, respectively, here’s the annual airing of our grievances and—in a rare turn of events—cheering of the most pleasant surprises.
SURPRISE: Amy Schumer’s Emmy Takeover
It’s good to be Amy Schumer. One day before her ecstatically anticipated film debut, Trainwreck, hits theaters, the star’s Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer reaped eight Emmy bids, including a Best Actress in a Comedy nod for Schumer herself. (Schumer also scored nominations in the writing and directing categories.) Plus, Paul Giamatti even scored a Guest Actor in a Comedy mention for his role in the spectacular 12 Angry Men parody episode.
SURPRISE: Lisa Kudrow’s Emmy Comeback
Well, she got it! Lisa Kudrow returned to the role of Valerie Cherish in the HBO comedy The Comeback nearly a decade after the series was canceled after just one season, eventually becoming a cult classic. Critics lavished praise on the former Friends star, arguing that she gave the best acting performance on television this past year, but worried that the show’s muted buzz would mean that Kudrow would be snubbed. It was tough competition—Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper, Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez, and Grace and Frankie’s Jane Fonda all were shut out—but few performers were more deserving than Kudrow.
SURPRISE: Tatiana Maslany Finally Gets a Nod It’s become tradition to gripe that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany, who is spellbinding while playing over a dozen different characters on the BBC America sci-fi drama, hasn’t been recognized by the Emmys despite delivering the most challenging and impressive acting performance by any star on TV. Having resigned to the fact that she’d never be nominated, citing Emmys’ history of ignoring sci-fi programming, most critics predicted Maslany would be snubbed again. It’s never been more fun to be so wrong.
SURPRISE: Anthony Anderson Steals Jim Parson’s Emmy Nod Jim Parsons has turned The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper into an iconic comedic character—and as such has won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy for each of the last four years. Emmy reigns like this can, let’s face it, be irritating. Nonetheless, it’s shocking that Parsons was left out of the race entirely this year. Instead, Black-ish star Anthony Anderson eked out a deserving, though unexpected, first-time nod. But couldn’t Parsons have taken repeat nominee Don Cheadle’s or Matt LeBlanc’s slot instead?
SURPRISE: And Parks and Rec Takes The Big Bang Theory’s! There was little hope that the swan song season of NBC’s charming sitcom that could, Parks and Recreation, would reap a final Best Comedy bid when bigger, buzzier contenders like The Big Bang Theory, Black-ish, or Jane the Virgin were vying for it. Considering the massive popularity of The Big Bang Theory, it’s a bit surprising that it was left off the list. But as it proved in the Best Drama category, the Emmys seem to not care too much about popularity this year. Which brings us to…
SNUB: Little Love for Empire Given the fact that Empire singlehandedly saved the entire notion of the broadcast drama with its unprecedented popularity this season—not to mention that it pretty much perfected the art of soapy camp meets delicious drama—most people thought a Best Drama nomination was a foregone conclusion for the series. Not only was the show left off in favor of tired, irritating nominees Downton Abbey and Homeland, Terrence Howard didn’t make into the Best Actor category either, as many had predicted he would. The lone good news: Cookie gets her due, with a nod for Taraji P. Henson in Best Actress.
SURPRISE: Key Gets Nominated (But Not Peele…) In past years, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy has been overrun by Modern Family actors. This year, however, only Ty Burrell got in, leaving room for a surprise nod for Key and Peele star Keegan-Michael Key. Is it a little strange (and probably awkward) that Key got in but not his comedy partner Jordan Peele? Most definitely. But this is the Emmys. We take what we can get!
SURPRISE: Niecey Nash for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy If there was one comedy performance that I thought was most deserving of Emmy recognition, but which I thought stood absolutely zero chance of getting nominated, it’s the quietly stirring, subtly hilarious, and absolutely revelatory work by Niecey Nash on Getting On, HBO’s teeny-tiny comedy about the employees of an extended-care wing of a hospital. This was the toughest category to winnow down even without counting on a surprise nominee like Nash—which probably explains why there’s a whopping eight contenders this year, including fresh bids for Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Gaby Hoffman, who made it in over her Transparent co-star Judith Light.
SNUB: No Love for Jane the Virgin Many critics were rooting for Jane the Virgin, CW’s endearing telenovela, to make appearances in some of the major comedy categories after winning some of the best reviews of any of the freshman comedy series that debuted this year—and especially after star Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe this past year. But despite having outside shots at nods in Best Comedy, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor for star Jamie Camil, the soap came up empty-handed.
SNUB: The Good Wife Misses Out…Again There was seething outrage last year when The Good Wife, which was not only the best drama on broadcast TV, but perhaps on television, completely, was snubbed for Best Drama. Given last year’s disappointment, perhaps Good Wife fans should’ve predicted another snub this year, but it’s still hard to stomach when Downton Abbey is still getting a Best Drama nod. Plus, after winning last year’s Best Actress award, it’s a bummer that Julianna Margulies isn’t back to defend her title again this year—though that category is so stacked it’s hard to choose which performer to bump to make room for her. At least her snub is in good company: Taylor Schilling, Ruth Wilson, and Kerry Washington also failed to get in.
SNUB: The Love Affair Is Over Proving just how little use the Golden Globes are at predicting Emmy nominees, The Affair, which won Best Drama and Best Actress (Ruth Wilson) at the Globes and scored a nomination for Dominic West there, too, failed to score any major nominations at the Emmys. Wilson probably had the best shot at a nomination, and many thought The Affair would be the freshman cable series to score a Best Drama nod, not Better Call Saul.
SURPRISE: A Lot of Last Man on Earth Love Critics raved about the pilot of Last Man on Earth, a Fox comedy that most thought belonged on cable and would never catch on with audiences, but subsequently abandoned the series as the season went on and its titular last man became quite an aggravating one. Still, that pilot was strong enough to score nods for star Will Forte in Best Actor as well as Best Writing and Best Directing nods.
SNUB: The Americans Still Gets Snubbed in the Big Categories Who knows why the Emmys will respond to some little-watched cable series (Better Call Saul, Ray Donovan) and not others, but despite receiving love letters from TV critics and pleas to get it the recognition it deserves, The Americans failed to get bids for Best Drama, Actress, or Actor. Instead, arguably the best drama on television will have to make due with a Writing and Guest Actress bid.